After several agonizing weeks of negotiation, speculation, and flagellation at the hands of Independiente, Toronto FC have finally signed the Designated Player they’ve been promising since the departure of Sebastian Giovinco. As was rumoured, Alejandro Pozuelo will be joining the Reds from league-leading Belgian side KRC Genk. The club announced the signing officially today, revealing that he'll join the club on March 18 — after TFC’s home opener and the end of Genk’s regular season.
The 27-year-old midfielder from Seville, Spain, was serving as Genk’s captain during this season’s league title campaign, which made the transfer saga quite a sticky one. His playmaking ability at the top of midfield has been extremely valuable for the Belgian club both this season and the previous three. He’ll leave Genk with 171 total appearances and 25 goals (assist stats seem hard to come by for the Belgian First Division — someone correct me if I’m wrong).
Pozuelo also spent a fairly successful 2013-14 season at Swansea City in the English Premier League, a year sandwiched by spells at Real Betis and Rayo Vallecano of La Liga in his native Spain.
There’s no word yet on what exactly TFC paid in terms of a transfer fee, but the release clause in Pozuelo’s contract was reported as being something to the tune of €8 million. Other reports have indicated that TFC have offered up a little more to secure the transfer sooner, possibly closer to €10 million — which would be in the top five all-time most expensive incoming transfers to MLS (and surpassing Toronto’s own record, which was reportedly about $10 million for Michael Bradley).
Genk were reportedly extremely unwilling to part with Pozuelo during the current season, preferring instead to hang onto him and secure the Belgian championship, but it seems that talks between TFC president Bill Manning and their representatives last week led to the latter softening their stance and allowing Pozuelo, who made it clear he intended to leave the club, to join Toronto.
Some TFC fans have been skeptical of Pozuelo as a replacement for Giovinco, perhaps disappointed with the pedigree of the club he’s coming from, but a quick look at highlight reels suggests he’s been one of the top playmakers (indeed, one of the top players, period) in Belgium. Check out his passing ability and vision here:
And again here, in a cheeky play that evokes memories of TFC’s previous Spanish playmaker:
If Pozuelo is indeed a younger, fitter, perhaps even better version of Victor Vazquez, he’ll be a force to reckon with in MLS. Vazquez, on top form, was a DP quality player.
TFC have implied that there are a couple TAM players on the way as well, which they can now shift their focus to with the biggest piece of the puzzle in place.